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Grant number like: RZ-50617-06

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Trustees of Indiana University (Bloomington, IN 47405-7000)
Dror Wahrman (Project Director: November 2005 to March 2011)

Collaborative Research
Research Programs

$100,000 (approved)
$100,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2007 – 7/31/2010

Invisible Hands: Self-Organization in the Eighteenth Century

Preparation of a book on the significance of "self-organization" in the European Enlightenment. (24 months)

Where does order come from? How are seemingly random moments of disorder accounted for? This project maps an 18th-century watershed in Western responses to these questions. It shows a repeated pattern in domains as far apart as religion and philosophy, science and economy, law and politics: a family of new ideas about the origins of order, about causality and chance. The fundamental new insight was that even if God was no longer the active guarantor of order, complex systems generated order immanently through self-organization. Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ was but one of many formulations of this new insight: it was a wide conceptual revolution that provides a new way of synthesizing many seemingly disparate themes in the 18th century.